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A Carafe Please . . .

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I was visiting one of my favorite wine bulletin board, Wineberserkers, when I saw a thread about a restaurant in LA offering wine by carafe. That’s nothing that unusual, but what was unusual was that they were telling you the variety, vintage and region, but not the producer. Their concept was to remove some of the ‘picture clues’ that exist when you see a label and ‘think’ you know that you’ll be tasting based on the producer, etc.

This got me thinking about traveling through Europe a number of years ago, sitting in small villages in Italy or Southern France, and sitting down to dinner at smaller restaurants. When ordering wine, you were often given the choice of the ‘local’ wines by carafe – red, white and sometimes rose. You didn’t know the producer; you didn’t know the variety; you didn’t know the vintage. And heck, it didn’t matter – for the local wines usually paired well enough with the local cuisine that it didn’t matter!

So back to this thread. There were a number of posters who were taken aback by the concept and ‘didn’t trust’ that they would be given the right value with this method. They felt that the restaurant might ‘take advantage’ by offering them a lesser producer for a ‘premium price’. Now I will say that the carafe pricing was higher than what I would hope it would be, but I dug the concept, and I was somewhat saddened that wine folks couldn’t see ‘beyond the box’ and realize that this perhaps would help minimize some of the ‘stigma’ that exists within our industry about choosing the ‘right’ bottle all of the time.

I’d love to see this type of service in more restaurants, albeit at a reasonable price, that would allow consumers to ‘explore’ more and hopefully expand their knowledge of wine without having to worry about ‘labels’.

Curious to hear your thoughts on the concept . . .

Cheers!

5 responses to “A Carafe Please . . .”

  1. Larry says:

    Laurie,

    Interesting comments and definitely ideas worth considering. I think your perspective is somewhat ‘unique’ in that you are very familiar with the wine world in your area, including the winemakers and winery owners. That said, what’s the harm in NOT knowing the wine/winery/label and just enjoying it for what it is, and NOT looking at it from the perspective of a wine writer / wine aficionado?

    My friend Wes Hagen just talked about ‘wine culture’ in this country in a recent video blog post, and though I didn’t agree with everything he had to say, one of his main points was on point – let’s not talk about wines so much – let’s drink and enjoy them!

    Food for thought . . .

  2. Laurie says:

    If I were eating with friends in a small village in Italy, yes: I’d welcome wine for the table being poured from a carafe. Here, back home, no. Here’s why: When I dine out in Santa Barbara County with friends, it’s ALL about the label. Most of my friends in northern SBCO are winemakers, or work in the wine industry. More often than not, the wine I haul out of my cellar for an evening is wine hand-crafted by one of those winemakers, or at the very least, a person I’ve met. Perhaps the wine of the night runs out before it makes a second trip around the table; perhaps it sits neglected at the end of the table after a few of us have tried it. In either case, it’s all about the label. I’d dine at a restaurant using a carafe only in one case: If the eatery’s management would reveal to its paying diners a list of possibilities the wine *could* be .. i.e.., “tonight’s carafe selection is one of these five reds.”

  3. Larry says:

    Martin,

    Great comments indeed – and I agree 100%! Let’s make it about ‘the experience’ and not about ‘the label’ . . .

    Cheers!

  4. I like the idea Larry. For me what makes the meal enjoyable is the wine and food together and that’s the priority for me. Certainly there is a school of thought that there can only be one “star” of the meal either the wine or the wine. I think the carafe thing if executed well will get you a good wine that pairs well with a great meal… and that’s a fine in my book

  5. Edwin says:

    This is nothing new.